Vietnam Memorial Wall replica to be displayed in Baker

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Those who have been to Washington, D.C. to see its most-visited monument will cross a familiar sight in Baker Center today as a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall will be on display to honor, respect and remember the many lives lost during the war.

The American Veterans Traveling Tribute allows everyone to view the popular monument by setting up a 380-foot replica in people’s backyards. Accompanying the monument will be a tribute to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, patriotic artwork created by Vietnam veterans and a display of golden dog tags belonging to the fallen soldiers who served in the War on Terror.

“I hope that families whose lives were touched by the Vietnam War are able to come forward and share their memories and history with the community,” said Athens County Probate Court Judge Robert Stewart.

Two local AMVETS organizations, Post 76 and Post 93, are looking forward to the event, Stewart said. Of the 58,253 soldiers who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War, 76 were residents of Southeastern Ohio. Their families will be honored in a ceremony tomorrow night.

The ceremony will feature Col. Tom Moe, the director of Ohio Department of Veterans Services. Moe shared a cell with Senator John McCain as a prisoner of war during Vietnam. Following the event, Baker Center will remain open until 3 a.m. for silent reflection.

“Local AMVETS have expressed that there are a lot of veterans who would come late at night to be by themselves with the wall,” said Brian Heilmeier of the Campus Involvement Center. “They’ll have a chance to come in and reflect more in a somber atmosphere that night rather than during the day with a bunch of folks around.”

The wall in Washington, D.C., which attracts 3 million visitors a year, was designed by Athens native Maya Lin, who wanted it to reflect the momentous park where it stands as well as the visitors’ emotions.

“The real wall instantly sparks emotion and the traveling wall does that as well,” Heilmeier said. “The sheer volume of people is mindboggling.”

OU’s Combat Veterans Club will be present at the 3-day event. Created in 2008 by 10 Marines who had finished deployment in Iraq, the club ensures that student veterans are aware of the benefits they are entitled.

“It’s hard if you don’t know what you’re doing, being fresh out of the combat zone to college life where you’re surrounded by a bunch of people who don’t necessarily understand your experience,” said Jake Brown, the club’s treasurer.

He and Mike Logue, president and founder of the club, were shocked at the number of local veterans whose names appear on the wall. They said the members of the Combat Veterans Club are especially looking forward to a meet and greet with area veterans and their families.

“Three years ago we outlined goals as an organization and now we’re starting to see those goals being matched and exceeded across the university, which we’re excited about,” Logue said.

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